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Shakeel Shabbir faces an uphill task as two major clans gang up against him

By Harold Odhiambo | March 13th 2017
Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabir. (Photo: Ann Agatwa/Standard)

Shakeel Shabbir, the Asian politician who broke the racial and cultural barriers to win the Kisumu East parliamentary seat for two straight terms, is now fighting for his political survival as clannism has emerged as one of the determinants in the August elections.

The large Kolwa clan that has loyally been voting for Mr Shabbir, is now seeking a united front against the legislator who has endeared himself to the locals ever since he was nominated as a councillor an later became the town's mayor before he was elected MP.

Shabbir has been so entrenched in the local politics that he has become a local elder in the constituency that straddles both the town and rural enclaves of Kajulu and Kano. He attends almost all local funeral and gives hefty contribution to bereaved families and the less fortunate in the society.

Shabir is the second member of the Asian community to win a political seat in Kisumu. Amir Jamal made history by being the first non-native to be elected an MP in Kisumu. Kisumu East was hived off the former Kisumu Town constituency.

The fact that he is married to a Luhya from Western region endeared him to local voters.

He is now facing a stiff contest, after his opponents rallied their clans behind them. The two big clans in the constituency – Kolwa and Kajulu – want their own to take the seat this time round.

But a confident Shabbir is laughing off the clannism factor, saying he will ride on his good development record and his solid relationship with the locals back to Parliament.

With former area MP Eric Gor Sungu making a comeback, the race for Kisumu East parliamentary seat is set to be a gigantic contest.

Sungu also served for two terms before losing the seat to Shabbir in 2007. He thereafter announced his retirement from politics, only to bounce back last week.

In an interview with The Standard, Sungu who once chaired a parliamentary select committee investigating the murder of former Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko in 1990 said he was back with a bang and was the man to watch.

"Sungu is back, re-energised and ready to continue work from where he left," Sungu said when he launched his campaign at his home in Kajulu.

Among those seeking to oust Shabbir include youthful forensic auditor and businessman Calvin Oselu Obondo, Information technology expert Job Ndege, nominated Senator Joy Gwendo, former Sugar Board Director Nicholas Oricho and Nairobi-based businessman John Anditi.

The two clans of Kajulu and Kolwa have been holding meetings chaired by elders to plot how to elect one of their own.

Kolwa, the largest clan has Mr Oselu and Mr Ndege while Kajulu has Sungu, Oricho, Anditi and Gwendo. All the aspirants are hunting for the ODM ticket save for Gwendo who will be running on a Jubilee ticket.

In the last election, Kisumu East had 43,963 registered voters. Out of this, Kolwa East and Kolwa Central wards had 12,000 votes while West ahd East Kajulu had 9,000 voters. If the two clans fail to zero in on one candidate, then Shabir will be home and dry, since he would be relying on the cosmopolitan Manyatta and Nyalenda slums which had 14,520 and 8,228 voters respectively.

The bigger Kolwa clan recently held its own 'nomination' in which Oselu was declared the winner and was issued with a 'certificate', allowing him to represent the clan in the elections. The 'certificate' was issued by the greater Kolwa Unity Forum.

"The greater Kolwa has spoken through a rigorous and competitive vetting based on merit. I will be carrying the mantle for the clan," said Oselu.

He said the only way to defeat Shabbir was for each of the two clans to settle on one of their owns to face the incumbent.

Oselu said the race will be determined by mostly the youth and women whose plight he said Shabbir has ignored in his two terms.

Sungu has been missing in the political scene since losing to Shabbir in 2007 but has now embarked on spirited campaigns to sell his candidature.

He said he was forced to quit politics following threats on his life after he chaired a committee that investigated the death of former Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko.

"I went into business but I am now back because the current MP has not delivered his mandate in the two terms the people gave him," said Sungu.

The ODM nominations is expected to be tough and chaotic, given that the party currently has parallel offices claiming branch leadership.

Shabbir, however, remains unfazed and had told his opponents to brace for a tough fight.

"My track record speaks for itself. I have initiated several projects in health, education and also in agriculture and that is what the people will use to judge me on August 8," he said.

Gwendo will be facing an uphill task in selling the unpopular Jubilee Party in the region.

The issues that all the aspirants have faulted the sitting MP for include the high rate of unemployment as well as favouritism in appointment.

At the moment, the wife of Shabbir has been serving as the constituency manager with his rivals accusing him of promoting nepotism.

Shabbir, however, defended the appointment of his wife saying that the law does not bar his wife from serving as a constituency manager.

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